There is no question, visiting Sequoia National Park With Kids, should be at the very top over every parent’s US National Parks with Kids bucket list! Sequoia National Park was the very first national park other than our home national park,the Smoky Mountains, that we visited with our kids. The memories will forever be etched in my memory.
In this article I teach you how to plan the perfect 2 day itinerary for Sequoia National Park with your kids and tips for worldschoolers on how to prepare for and learn more about Sequoia National Park.
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Preparing Kids To Visit Sequoia National Park
As traveling homeschoolers, we probably prepare for national park visits a little more than most families because our visits to the National Parks are part of our homeschool curriculum. However, even if you don’t homeschool, these Sequoia National Park tips will help you prepare for your family for the adventure of a lifetime.
Since this was our very first US National park, I wanted to be sure the kids had a good understanding of all the amazing things to see in Sequoia National Park.
Incidentally, as is often the case, I got quite an education myself. As a matter of fact, did you know that Sequoia National Park isn’t really the name? It’s actually Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.
Sequoia National Park became the second national park in the National Park system after Yellowstone in 1872. King’s Canyon was added to the National Park system under the Theodore Roosevelt administration and became jointly managed with SNP in 1943.
Books To Read About Sequoia National Park
I educate my children using the Charlotte Mason method (loosely) which means literature and living books are a large part of our curriculum. That doesn’t mean I don’t also use Unit Studies, unschooling, and other Classical methods. I’m not a Charlotte Mason purist as some are called, but I highly value living books and books that can inform my children about life in a natural way rather than in the traditional textbook model listing of facts that mean nothing.
The beauty of traveling and homeschooling is that good literature and real life experience complement each other like peanut butter and jelly. Both are fine by themselves, but put them together and you have something out of this world.
Before we visited Sequoia National Park with the kids, here are a few of the books we read to prepare.
- The Camping Trip That Changed America- This is the story of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt about the night they took a camping trip together. The discussions had and the sights beheld ultimately created the partnership that led to the development of the National Park System in 1903.
- Bully For You, Mr. Roosevelt– Jean Fritz (a favorite of mine) brings to life the conservationist and man also known as the 23rd president of the United States. This book is for older children or would make a great read aloud for the family.
- Tall Tall Tree– A beautiful picture book great for younger children
- Redwoods– Take a journey when an ordinary boy finds a book on the Subway and is transported to the California Redwood Forests
How Big Are Sequoia Trees? [Video]
Watch this video by USA Today with your kids for a great visual perspective of just how big the trees are in Sequoia National Park.
Sequoia National Park Junior Ranger and National Park Passport Program
I highly recommend getting your kids involved in the National Park Passport Program and the Sequoia National Park Junior Ranger program. You can purchase the Passport books online through Amazon or you can pick them up inside the Visitor Center at the Park. You can also get Junior Ranger Information and booklets at any visitor center inside the park.
The program provides age appropriate booklets. Each booklet contains questions and tasks to accomplish while visiting the park. Once the children have completed their books, you return them to a visitor center where they will be quizzed by a Park Ranger and, if they pass, (don’t worry they will), they will be officially sworn in by taking the Jr. Park Ranger oath and receiving their official Jr. Ranger badge. As you can imagine that this creates a great deal of excitement for the children, and it is a great way to get them more involved in exploring the parks and learning about nature.
Field Guides for Sequoia National Park With Kids
My favorite part of exploring nature in another region, is discovering all the unique plant life that I don’t see in my own outdoors. We enjoyed visiting Sequoia National park in May so the flowers were in full bloom. Spring is definitely of the best times to visit Sequoia National Park.
Be sure to purchase a local field guide beforehand or get one at the visitor’s center if you didn’t bring one because relying on google is unpredictable since cell service isn’t always reliable.
We would never have been able to identify the interesting Yucca plant growing on the sides of the mountains without ours.
Sequoia National Park Tips
- Get gasoline in your car
- Purchase plenty of snacks and water- we recommend considering a hydration backpack. This has made a big difference in our kid’s hiking stamina.
- Get a good quality cooler and sealed containers for food to protect it from bears. We recommend purchasing a rotomolded cooler if you plan on camping in the park.
- Bring a first aid kit and medications
- Wear comfortable hiking shoes! Our favorites are Salomon brand hiking shoes
- Bring paper maps or pick them up at the visitor center as cell service and GPS can be unreliable
- Charge cell phones and bring extra car chargers
- Use the restroom
- If you want to camp in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, be sure to look up the campsite reservation policy and start looking to book your site 6 months in advance.”
Getting To Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park
Many visitors enter from the south at Three Rivers, CA. However, we were unable to book lodging in Three Rivers so we opted to stay in a small town of Exeter, California about thirty minutes outside of the park. We found a great Best Western that was perfect for us. Located less than thirty minutes from the Ash Mountain Entrance of Sequoia National Park, it’s a quaint town filled with orange groves! If you have time, take a stroll downtown to see the murals of Exeter, CA.
Before entering Sequoia National Park on hwy 198, stop in Three Rivers and take in the amazing scenery along the Kaweah River. This was our first glimpse of California’s amazing Sierra mountains. Aren’t they breathtaking?
Things To See In Sequoia National Park
Indian Head Entrance Sign Iconic Photo Op
Another photo op occurs at the entrance to the park which is sometimes also referred to as the Indian Head Entrance for this famous sign carved in the 1930s from a block of Sequoia wood.
Next, make your way to the Foothills Visitor Center. This is a good time for a bathroom break and to pick up a trail map if you didn’t bring one. Now is also the time to purchase a Passport to Your National Park book and get your Jr. Ranger Booklets if you haven’t already done so. Don’t forget to get your passport marked at each National Park visitor center you visit.
Sequoia National Park’s Giant Trees!
Now begin your way into the park along the curvy General’s Hwy to an elevation of 6400 feet and start hunting for the GIANT TREES! Stop often to stretch and take in the amazing scenery. Our first glimpse of the giant trees occurred in the Giant Forest! We had to pull the car over for a few pictures! The kids had a loads of fun playing hide and seek behind the giant trees. Dad and enjoyed taking pics and video.
The Iconic Tunnel Log
Before you reach your next stop, detour to the left on Crescent Meadow Rd to experience driving the car through the famous Tunnel Log. This is an iconic experience everyone must have!
Giant Forest Museum and Trails
Now, back onto General’s Hwy to the Giant Forest Museum, where you can watch a video, explore more of the forest, and take some more great photos. This is also a good place to break for a picnic lunch.
General Sherman Tree and Trail
After a nice break and chance for the kids to run off some energy, get back in the car toward the General Sherman Tree!
Once you arrive and park in the lot located off of Wolverton Road, follow the trail down 200 feet on the General Sherman Trail. While there are a few stairs, the trail is paved and navigable for most ages. There are benches and information signs located along the trail. There is also separate handicap accessible parking for those unable to walk the trail. Both parking areas provide restroom facilities.
After taking your picture with the world’s largest tree, take the time to walk along the 3 mile Congress Trail loop. Here you will also be among the world’s third and fourth largest Sequoias. Tomorrow you will see the world’s second largest Sequoia; The General Grant.
Things to see In King’s Canyon National Park
- Grant Grove
- Fallen Monarch
- Grant Tree and Trail
- Centennial Stump
- Scenic King’s Canyon Byway
On Day 2 you will head into the King’s Canyon making your first stop at Grant Grove for another great hike to see the General Grant Tree! After parking the car, walk onto the General Grant Tree Trail which loops to the left or the right.
The Fallen Monarch
Taking the left, you will quickly be met by the fallen Monarch. The kids will enjoy entering this nature made fort! It’s a great photo op as well! It is reported that the hollowed out fallen tree has been used as shelter for Indians, a hotel and saloon, and a horse stable.
General Grant Tree and Trail
After playing inside the Fallen Monarch for a bit, continue on the trail toward the General Grant! You will begin to gain an appreciation for the size of this tree is as it comes into view while descending the trail. Below is a listing of the top 10 Largest Giant Sequoias by Trunk Volume. While the General Sherman yesterday was taller in height, you can see that the General Grant has a larger trunk volume and circumference.
Also note that seven out of ten largest Giant Sequoias are located right here in the SNP and KCNP! It really is worth a visit at least once in your lifetime! For the complete list of the largest trees in the world click on the image below.
If you can’t get your fill of giant trees while visiting Sequoia NP, head up to the Muir Woods National Monument in northern California on the Pacific Coast side, but be sure to leave some time to visit San Francisco while you are at it.
After you take your pictures with the General Grant Tree, you can also observe the Centennial Stump. The history sign on the stump will tell you that,
“The tree was cut, sectioned, and reassembled at the World’s Fair in Philadelphia in 1876 where it became known as a “California Hoax,” by dubious easterners. This was a very old tree.”
As an easterner seeing these trees for the first time, I can understand why they didn’t believe their very own eyes.
Another point of interest on the trail is the Gamlin Cabin said to have been built by Thomas Gamlin who lived in the nearby fallen Monarch for two years while constructing the cabin. Our crew had a long day’s drive ahead and we wanted to explore the King Canyon Byway so we missed these following hikes, but here is the list of other trails to explore in the Grant Grove area should you remain in the area longer.
Kings Canyon Scenic Byway
Eager to get on into the Canyon, we left Grant Grove and followed 180 Northeast toward Cedar Grove Village which is now being called the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway. It doesn’t take very long to understand this name!
This winding stretch of 180 takes you alongside the South Fork Kings river. In the springtime this river is a roaring magnificent sight to see! Just after the Hume Lake Ranger Station, you will begin your journey on the byway and be met by one of the most astonishing views I’ve ever laid my eyes upon. This canyon is simply breathtaking! Have the camera ready for numerous pull offs and picture opportunities. Stop above Hume lake for an amazing vista point! Once you begin to head down into the canyon, don’t miss the amazing Grizzly falls! !
However, if you don’t have a cover for your expensive gear, you may be forced to take pictures with your cell phone. You may want a poncho! We reached the Cedar Grove area around dinner time so we picked up some great burgers at the Cedar Grove Village Center before heading back out of the canyon. If you are finished for the day, there is lodging in Cedar Grove. Again, our crew had plans to make Yosemite the next day so we had to press on. However another night would have definitely been preferable!
Where to Stay in Sequoia National Park With Kids
Lodging within the park is limited to camping or rustic lodges and huts. We opted to stay at the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge which is not owned by the national park. While the activities and scenery at Monticeto-Sequoia lodge are fabulous, we can’t in good conscience recommend the Montecito-Sequoia lodge as we found it to be unclean and unkempt in the grounds for the price point.
Other options are the Wuksachi Lodge, Bear-Paw High Sierra camp, or driving on toward Grant Grove to stay in Grant Grove Lodge. There is the option of staying outside the park in Three Rivers, Exeter, or northwest in Fresno, however this adds a minimum extra hour one way into and out of the park.
Important Points To Remember When Visiting Sequoia National Park With Kids
- Entrance Fee Into The Parks is $30 Per Vehicle for one week. Annual Passes to the National Parks can be purchased here for $80/yr
- If you have a kid in the 4th Grade get your Every Kid In a Park Pass for free entry for the entire family for the Year
- Seniors can get a lifetime pass for $80 here
- Members of the Military can get a free lifetime pass
- Don’t forget to fill up before entering the park and keep food secured from wildlife.
- Our visit was in the Spring after heavy rains. Conditions vary greatly in the parks so be sure to check the NPS Website and the local weather to plan accordingly.
For more national park inspiration, check out these articles:
- Things To Do In Jackson Hole, WY
- Things To Do In The Smoky Mountains
- Yosemite National Park with the Kids
- US national park roundup
- 12 Things to do in Acadia National Park
Have you been to Sequoia National Park with your kids? Leave us a comment and tell us about your trip.